So I just came off watching the final episode of Adventure Time, and for all the trash animation I watch between Western cartoons and anime, it is one of the best short-length animations I have seen in a while. The narrative choices are perfect in rewarding someone watching the show for the first time all the way through, or for people like me who have watched Adventure Time religiously for the past five, potentially six, years.
Let’s start with why it’s good for a first-time viewer. The story is simple to follow. Regardless of how much you have watched of the show, it situates you in a place where you can watch the final episode and keep up with the action. The writers do this through one of the most infamous techniques ever; a flashback. Flashbacks don’t usually work because they work to stagnate the plot; we’re getting information that’s already happened and is only told to us because it informs the current context. Why it works in this case, though, is because the plot is already over. This is the end of the story, so telling it in flashback form is totally feasible. The other reason is that they keep the story-telling simple. Of course, over the 45-minute episode, there are layers upon layers of information to unpack, but the story is simple to follow. The writers also took the time to explain everything in enough detail that, if this episode was someone’s first exposure to the show, they would be missing only the fine detailing and impact of every action that’s made. Adventure Time is already known as a show that has to be watched with a bit of suspended disbelief – you can’t watch it and expect it to make total sense. As a whole, this means that the episode can work as a beginning or an ending, and both at once. Every point that is made over the 45 minutes is totally believable from how it begins to how it ends, and it ties everything up nicely into a very wholesome package.
Honestly, though, I’d much rather get into the nitty-gritty, starting with the intro sequence. Already, it is different from the original. It takes a melancholic tone instead of its usual peppiness, with images that are similar to what we’re used to seeing but ever so slightly off. With a recurring theme of rebirth over the last ten seasons, Shermy and Beth are obviously the reincarnations of the beloved Finn and Jake. Even the title card, Come Along With Me and its butterfly and bee is something that every Adventure Time fan would recognise (I even sang the song writing that line). You can tell the writers had a good time with this episode, with references to favourite songs like ‘On A Tropical Island’, the King of Ooo and AMO, all memorable moments in the long-running series. But they play with it; BMO is now the King of Ooo, stealing Princess Bubblegum’s crown and Ice King’s beard and seemingly hoarding things from the history of the show. As a long-time fan, this kind of content is extremely rewarding – it shows that attention to detail, especially in a universe this large, doesn’t go astray. You can also tell how much time has gone past, considering BMO can’t remember Finn’s name anymore. Tying back to the flashback mentioned before, using the perspective of BMO is a great choice because he has a penchant for storytelling.
Character growth is also a rewarding aspect of this episode, the best being between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline. Over the 10 seasons of the show, there has been a lot of back and forth between the two – they’ve worked together, they’ve worked against each other and they’ve had each other’s backs more times than I can count. However their moments now are so layered; from the moment Marceline said “good luck” off the screen, I knew something was different this time. Their kiss later in the episode, though, was probably the most rewarding scene in the whole show, ever. Their relationship was always alluded to but never confirmed until that moment. The other big one is Finn; he’s gone from a violent 12-year-old to a peace-loving 17-year-old that makes Bubblegum look like a warmongering maniac. I remember in the early seasons Finn being unwilling to ask for help; now he’s more than comfortable doing it because he knows there are things he can’t do on his own. Both of these moments of characterisation really impacted me because they so starkly contrasted the tone of the episode – it may have been a finale but it didn’t stop the writers from saying “our characters are going to change even though we’re at the end”, and that change was definitely for the better.
I could write an even longer essay about my sheer appreciation about this final episode because Adventure Time was so influential in my adolescence. It’s a show I grew up with, and seeing the characters grow up with me is probably the most rewarding part of being a fan. I’m sad it’s over, but I will always love and appreciate Adventure Time, and the final episode is a testament to the good things that have come from it.